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Concert Reviews:
Judas Priest throws a heavy metal party at the Fox
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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DETROIT -- "There's been a lot of wonderful celebrating going on around this band," Judas Priest's Rob Halford noted on Sunday night at the Fox Theatre -- in front of a crowd that clearly felt just having the iconic British heavy metal group in the building was cause enough for celebration.

But the quintet does have an inordinate amount of landmarks to commemorate this year: 45 years since its founding in Birmingham, England; 40 years since the release of its first album; 30 years since its platinum "Defenders of the Faith." And, oh yeah, Priest also put out a brand new album this year, "Redeemer of Souls," that snagged the group its highest-ever Billboard chart debut, at No. 6 in July.

All of that made for nothing less than a party atmosphere Sunday at the Fox. Forget about all the gloom, doom and darkness often associated with metal; even if Halford sang about killer dragons, murderous Vikings, the undead and occasional romance gone bad, Priest's 16-song, 95-minute show was filled with celebratory energy, a gathering of (mostly) T-shirted kindred spirits singing anthems together and celebrating metallic divinity. "March of the Damned" be, well, damned; Priest and its fan were all about, as the song says, rockin' 'til the dawn -- or at least a Sunday-appropriate 10 p.m.

Following a tongue-in-cheek opening set by comic metal act Steel Panther, Priest emerged from behind a large curtain bearing the band's name for a show that put the group's songs and its precision brand of headbanging dynamics first. The opulent staging of 2010-11's opulent Epitaph World Tour was missing on Sunday; instead the band played a music-centric, meat-and-potatoes concert in which pyrotechnics were present as projections on the stage's three LED video screens. Halford did sport seven different looks and rode his motorcycle on stage before "Hell Bent For Leather," but the primary heroics came from his growls and screams and the guitar tandem of Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner, Priest's newest and youngest member who was showcased during a long solo spot towards the end of "You've Got Another Thing Comin'."

The set list, meanwhile, managed to cover all the bases Priest was celebrating -- though surprisingly without anything from that very first album "Rocka Rolla." Nevertheless, the group trolled for plenty of deep tracks such as "Victim of Changes" and an epic rendition of "Beyond the Realm of Death," while "Defenders of the Faith" got its due with favorites such as the title track, "Jawbreaker" and "Love Bites." "Redeemer of Souls' " four songs, meanwhile, fit in well alongside its predecessors, and Priest was clearly energized to be playing its first batch of brand new songs in six years.

It made for a satisfying night for the Fox faithful, regardless of when they became part of Priest's universe. And when Halford promised that "the Priest will be back at the end of the night," he was loudly assured that those fans will be back, too.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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